Over the past few years the optometry community has been paying more attention to the growing concern of digital eye strain, its short-term symptoms and the possible long-term effects of blue light. But this kind of light also has an immediate impact — on your sleep.
Because we use digital devices for many of our daily activities, they are often at our bedside for things like checking the next day’s weather, checking messages, reading and for use an alarm clock. We can’t deny the convenience, but we need to be aware of the risks. A growing number of studies are finding that having a digital device on at bedtime has a negative impact on sleep patterns.
- A University of Texas-Austin study found that college students lose an average of 46 minutes of sleep by using their digital devices to answer phone calls and check messages in bed.
- Research published in Photochemistry and Photobiology found that a week of blue light exposure at bedtime results in 14 fewer minutes of sleep.
- Multiple studies have shown that exposure to blue light at bedtime alters our melatonin levels and delays our circadian clocks.
Another big clue that blue light exposure should be taken seriously is the response of the companies who make digital devices. Recently both amazon.com and Apple announced changes to their products that alter the light from screen readers when clocks indicate evening or night hours, or in low-light conditions. Read more about these features in this article from the American Optometric Association.
One concerning statistic from all this research on digital eye strain is that 90 percent of patients do not talk with their eye doctors about their digital device use. There are several ways we can help alleviate symptoms of eye strain as well as protect your eyes in the longer term, including special lenses for patients who spend a significant amount of time in front of screens.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Tuomas_Lehitnen